Researchers at North Carolina State University have taken the first step toward creating an army of unstoppable cyborg cockroaches .

Scientists seeking a way to turn cockroaches to the side of good have found a surprisingly simple method for doing so: with Kinect. The researchers wired test roaches with a small circuit that could send electrical impulses to their cerci (sensory organs on their abdomen) and antenna, causing them to move forward and change direction by remote control, and then tied the whole thing into a Kinect setup. The Kinect was then used to follow the roach’s progress along a predetermined path, sending signals to steer it as required, and also collected data on how the roach responded to the impulses in order to assist in fine-tuning the system for greater precision.

It’s equal parts cool and creepy, but there’s a practical angle to the research as well, as the team hopes to eventually be able to use remote-controlled cockroaches to search for survivors in dangerous situations like collapsed buildings. The technology to steer the roaches by remote isn’t actually new – Bozkurt’s team originally unveiled it in September 2012 – but the use of Kinect to refine the control system and develop an autopilot is.

“We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites,” Bozkurt said. “The autopilot program would control the roaches, sending them on the most efficient routes to provide rescuers with a comprehensive view of the situation.”

The team released a video showing the system in action and while it’s clearly neither lightning fast nor pinpoint-precise at this stage, the bottom line is that it works: A machine has taken control of a cockroach and bent it to its will. I don’t know which new overlord I should welcome first.

Source: NC State University


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